I’ve decided that it’s hard to take an “artistic” photograph of a room that includes all the features you want and combines them in an interesting composition, no matter how great everything looks in the actual setting.  For some reason, I think interiors usually look much nicer in real life than in your average photograph and I have no idea how magazines like Domino make their rooms look so good. (People probably have special lenses for that, don’t they?)

Case in point: the bedroom looks a lot nicer than my two wimpy photos here. The pics don’t include our lovely maple dresser (a gift from the mum), which looks vibrant next to the cool green-blue of the walls.  Or the trim around the closet and hallway doors, which happen to be (I recently noticed) perfectly symmetrical. As soon as I finish the cleaning/putting away, I will snap a few more.


The two lamps came from our honeymoon visit to Ikea, and I think I’m going to look for new shades – these are a little too dotty for me now. The matching nightstands were a $40 deal at the one and only flea market I have ever gone to (you have no idea how much I love saying that I found them at a flea market and pretending like that happens to me all the time).  The bedspread is the most recent acquisition – $20 at Wal-Mart. It reminds me so much of the way my grandmother made beds – each bed in her house had its own special bedspread and sheet set. The whole room is vintage in a my-grandmother-would-like-this sort of way, which I find very pleasant.


Still working on window coverings.  The blinds are fairly ugly and don’t reach the windowsill (annoying!), so I need to take the filthy white drapes to the dry cleaner and see if they can be salvaged. I’d prefer not to use the blinds at all – the drapes are thick enough to block visibility, and I’d like something thin-enough-to-let-light-in but opaque-enough-that-we’re-not-in-a-fishbowl for the day.  Current contenders include adhesive window films like this or this, but they’re both kind of pricey.  Might go with sheer muslin panels.

Future bedroom projects include a headboard (probably a simple padded and fabric-covered board attached to the wall) and some sort of large artwork to go over the bed.


Yup, we are official Moscow residents now.  Everything but the dog hair (who knew one little pup could produce so much?!) has been taken out of our old apartment. Huzzah! A million thanks to the mother, sister, brother-in-law, and friends who helped move our rather heavy furniture.  Moving = over, unpacking = 1/2 done, cleaning of old apt = not started. 

So, because I know you’re all dying to see pics of the new apartment (right?), I will start with…the bathroom.  It was the first room to be “done”, which is probably directly related to the fact that it is also the smallest room. Still missing the wall decor, but other than that it’s pretty finished. And I love it.


It’s kind of strange to me that I feel so strongly about, um, a bathroom, but I am so please with how the paint turned out and how our miscellaneous stuff fits into the room.


There are a few quirks, like the hideous powerstrip on the wall that I can’t figure out how to remove and the fact that there’s no good place to hang towels (currently on a door rack, but now the door won’t close all the way).


The husband is pleased because we have a place to display our rather extensive perfume-and-cologne collection.  I am pleased because my Wal-Mart basket set perfectly matches the white of the trim.


Maybe you have to see it in person to appreciate the whole effect, but I really feel like all the colors in the room belong there instead of having been forced upon me by previous tenants.  I even like the counters and floor. 

Am still contemplating what art to hang on small stretch of blank wall next to the toilet.  I’ve thought about buying a sheet of this wallpaper and framing it, but I can’t decide which design (if any) goes with the “symphony in gold and cream” look that I’ve got going on. Suggestions?

Oh, and did I mention that I love my new bathroom?

Tomorrow: selected pics of the similarly successful bedroom, not including boxes and piles of sweaters.

Kitchen pics.

So, here’s the product of last evening. It may look a little mottled because the paint wasn’t dry when I snapped these.





View toward (unfinished) dining room:


Fabulous old stove:


A friend made the very good suggestion of changing the cabinet hardware, since the little scrolled whatsits contribute heavily to the dated feel of the kitchen. It will be a sizeable investment – I counted 26 handles – but I may see if the landlord will split the cost after a couple of months.  That is, if he’s still talking to me…I think I call every other night with paint issues.

Tonight: touch up the living room with (hopefully) matching white so we can start putting furniture against the walls. I doubt there will be any photos of note, since touching up white is about as boring as it gets.

I permitted myself to start reading a book last weekend, which is always a little dangerous since I tend to read books all at once instead of at intervals.  I’m almost done with The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, and it’s a lot better than I remembered (this is my 2nd reading). Makes me want to finish all this moving stuff so I can paint canvasses instead of walls.

The kitchen.

Kitchen = progress, but camera batteries = dead.

I gave the kitchen its first complete coat of “Dune” on Sunday. I did the edging first and wasn’t really impressed with the paint.  As in, Should I quit now and buy another color? It looked much, much too yellow compared to the purple tones on the counter and floor linoleum.

I decided to stick with it and finish the wall, though, and I’m really glad I did. I am positive that paint can change color: as it dried, the yellow become darker and browner and much more flattering (almost like a chameleon). It wasn’t even the same shade as the dot on top of the can! I can’t wait to see what it looks like with a second coat, which will hopefully happen tonight.

I squeezed my roller dry on the bathroom wall, which will also be the same color, and was really pleased with the way it looked in there as well. The bathroom is lit by warm incandescent bulbs and the kitchen has harsh fluorescents, but somehow the same paint works okay in both places. I found out via an old Martha Stewart decorating book that one of the differences between cheap paint and expensive paint is that the expensive stuff uses more pigments to achieve the same “color.”  So, an expensive paint will respond more to different lighting conditions because there’s a wider array of pigments to interact with the light.  Hmm. I agree with the theory, but good ol’ Wal-Mart el-cheapo paint has been doing well so far.

Like I said, more paint tonight and pics tomorrow!

A word about last weekend: the prospective students came and went, nobody got lost (or hurt) and I think a relatively good time was had by all. Hooray!

There were a few embarrassing moments which you, the reader, may find amusing. I am not a very technically adept person, but I happen to be more computer-savvy than anyone else in my office.  Ergo, I am the go-to person for the digital projector, laptop, etc. Somehow, I ended up sharing the techie honors on Saturday morning with a slightly nervous grad student and we had all kinds of problems.  A very distinguished professor’s microphone was fading in and out and I could not figure out how to fix the situation, so I finally walked up front, took it away from him, and told him to speak loudly. Mm, nothing like making a spectacle of yourself in front of 120 people.  And then there was a Mac that would NOT talk with the projector. We finally had to call the next speaker up and take a break afterward so we could reboot the whole system (which worked, albeit slowly).

The blooper highlight of the day, however, came at the end. A vinology professor spent about 20 minutes describing his research into a phenomenon called “berry shrivel”, including lots of photos of – you guessed it – shriveled berries. At the end of the presentation he put up a summary page where he decided to abbreviate and simply call it “bs”.  It was very, very amusing to read about how scientists need more money to research bs.

And I used to think that scientific conferences were boring!


I made genuine painting progress last night – the bedroom is done! 

(At least, it’s done unless I find out that I missed some places with my second coat. I used up the entire can of paint and squeezed everything I could out of the roller, but it was too dark to see if there were any white spots left.)

I love seeing a room go from this:


to this:


..with only some money, late nights, helpful friends, bruises, and painty fingernails in between. 

Tonight’s challenge: touch up the living room before it fills up with furniture. I have a can of white paint that is theoretically a perfect match, although it looked a little lighter last night when I was touching up the trim. If it really is a match, I’m just going to walk around the room with a roller and just paint the spackled/ugly parts instead of coating the entire wall.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

My graduate program’s major recruitment weekend is this Thursday through Saturday, so I’m working lots of overtime and probably won’t be able to blog again. I hope y’all have a happy Valentine’s Day! (Thinking wistfully about handmade valentines that didn’t happen.)

Talking doll.

Was informed by my husband last night that I could be made into a talking doll.  When you pull my string, I would say, “I know – I’ll paint it!” or “I can do it for less than $50!”

I probably shouldn’t have told him that I planned to paint his favorite picture frame white.

Painting preview.

This was supposed to be more than a preview of my weekend painting work. But last night, as I stepped back with a sigh and decided that the walls really do need a second coat but were suitable for photographing for blog, my camera beeped its special “you have no more battery juice” beep and died.  I tried – I really did!

After having scrubbed and spackled and sanded to my satisfaction, my friend Alisha and I spent Saturday afternoon applying blue paint to my bedroom walls.


I say “blue,” but the proper name for the blue/green/grey tint I chose is, apparently, “Concrete.”  Um, okay – the paint in no way reminds me of concrete. Must be fun to be the person that picks paint names.


As usual, it took a lot longer than I can planned.  Lish is a pro with a roller, but all the edges – floor molding, windows, doors, ceiling molding – took me a long time.

The good news is that the paint – which is MUCH lighter than it looks in this photo – is a really lovely color on the wall. I’ve always been too broke and too impatient to go through the “recommended” process of buying small cans of a couple of colors, painting some big blotches, and making up your mind after a few days.  Nope, what I buy is what you get. This creates a certain amount of suspense as the paint actually starts going up.


Fortunately, “concrete” turned out to be a real winner – it makes the off-white trim look creamy and the mottled carpet look kinda classy. Lish said it was “Martha Stewart, but in a good way,” which I took to be a nice compliment. This is not a good week for painting because I have to work late a couple of nights, but I’m going to try to finish the 2nd coat of blue and touch up the white trim. And then one room will be completely done! (She said, trying not to think of other rooms + move-in date.)

On a non-painting note, I want to give a little movie review. Josh and I went to see Pan’s Labyrinth last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. We’d been hoping and hoping that the film would come to little ol’ Pullman, and it finally did. The verdict: I think that I really liked it. The story is self-consciously a fairy tale, and I haven’t read/seen/thought about fairy tales for a long time. Watching Pan’s Labyrinth made me think about The Princess and Curdie, Arthur Rackham, Hans Christian Anderson, and my well-loved copy of The Blue Fairy Book. It made me sad that I don’t read those stories any more and simultaneously wonder whether or not I should.

Pan’s Labyrinth is really visually interesting: all the wood is old, all the whites are muted, and the faces are always the center of attention. I think that people usually like to envision their fairy stories all fresh and clean and full of pink gossamer butterfly wings…Guillermo del Toro likes his full of dirt and blood and insects.  When I was studying Russian, I remember memorizing a short version of Little Red Riding Hood in which the wolf actually eats Grandma and the woodcutter chops him open to get her out. This is that kind of story – there’s no magic aura surrounding little girls that keeps them from getting eaten. The blending of the Spanish Civil War plot with the fairy tale plot makes for a world that wasn’t safe in either direction, and it’s pretty unsettling. It’s hard to dismiss the fantasy as escapist when it’s just as horrific as what’s going on outside, which is something that I think sets this movie apart. I mean, the White Queen could have killed the four children in Narnia and the German bombs in London, but Lewis doesn’t make you think about how grotesque either death would be. del Toro does.

This probably isn’t a great “review” because I’m still working through my thoughts. So, suffice it to say that Pan’s Labyrinth produces lots of thoughts – it’s not one that you can brush off by thinking, “What a nice little story about fauns and fairies and stuff.” If you’ve seen it, will you tell me what you thought? I also think it’s a good movie to compare with Lady in the Water, which the husband really liked. He’s got good reasons for what he thinks, but I think Pan’s Labyrinth comes out on top.

Special note: As you might have guessed, this movie is much more Brothers Grimm than Walt Disney. I had to look away quite a few times and try not to think about what was happening.  If you’re squeamish or easily frightened or about to spend the night in a creaky apartment all by yourself, you might want to wait for the video. I also cried quite a bit at the end, although I might have been the only one in the theater who did.


I spent last evening scrubbing walls in the new apartment – they are/were kinda gross. In the process I unearthed a few more previous paint colors: yellow, bright ochre, and a medium turquoise. Maybe the white isn’t so bad after all.

I made it all the way through Demolition by Ryan Adams, some Pulp, Tiny Cities by Sun Kil Moon, and some Natalie Merchant before Josh finished his homework and came to pick me up. I have to say that, after a couple of bad days at work, the scrubbing was rather cathartic. There’s just you, your music, and a problem that can be fixed with a sponge and enough water. That’s really nice sometimes. 

Probably won’t post again before the weekend, but promise photos next week of newly-painted rooms next Monday.

Paint chips.

Last weekend, I finally got to experience the moment I’ve been waiting for all year: I got to march right up to the Wal-Mart paint display and pull out my own little selection of paint chips. 


Some people can stare for hours at baseball cards or comic books. Me? I am absolutely mesmerized by paint chips. I would have stood there for an hour, soaking the color in, if Josh hadn’t forced me to choose a couple so we could go home.

This is probably weird, but I feel as though every little rectangle of pigment is an entire room, begging me to choose it.  The Dover Gray says, Pick me! Pick me!  The Green Ash says, You know I’ll make the room look more sophisticated.  And then the Butternut pipes up, But you always wanted a gold-toned dining room.

It’s very hard to turn any of them down when you know that somewhere, somehow, each color will make somebody’s bedroom or living room or dining room look perfect.  It’s such a huge decision to pick just a few for your own little home. Pastels? Jewel tones? Neutrals? Light or dark? Pure or muted? Background or foreground? It becomes so overwhelming.

Fortunately, my husband calmly pointed out a few of his favorites and gently steered me away from the extremes (a teal dining room could look so striking, don’t you think?). I came away with a fistful of creamy beiges, browns, yellows, greens, and greys, which I contemplated in various lighting situations and finally was able to take to the apartment last night. Current picks (unless vetoed by landlord) are: light yellow-beige in the kitchen and bathroom, light green-grey-blue in the bedroom, and a medium cool brown in the dining room.  The process was complicated by the reddish-brown stained cabinets in the kitchen, the greeny-almond trim that I’ve already mentioned, and the strangely purple-toned white mottled carpet in the living and dining rooms (ugh). But since everything else about the apartment is absolutely fabulous, I am happy to overlook these minor color variations.

I’m trying really hard to stick to neutrals given that a) if I do, I might not have to re-paint when we move out someday and b) I’ve painted with primary colors before and they were harder to work with than I’d thought.  I got so excited about color when I painted my last apartment that I came out with a lemon yellow bedroom, light blue living room, red kitchen, and green bathroom. And then when it was done I looked around and thought about daycares, kindergartens, elementary schools…primary colors can look a little “now we are six” unless you have nice modern furniture, which I didn’t. It’s so much easier to paint with a muted color and add the punch with accents.


I began scrubbing the walls last night in preparation for this weekend’s paint fest. In the process, I discovered that parts of the apartment have been sky blue, petal pink, and fuschia at various times in its life. Mmm, fuschia. Do you ever wonder what your house/condo/apartment looked like when other people lived in it? I think there’s a good chance that the previous tenant will come into our apartment someday (she only moved a few doors down), and I really wonder what she will think. 

Will show plenty of before & after photos – which I always love to see – after the weekend.  The RenFair poster has gone by the wayside, I’m afraid…can only have one painting project at once. And what poster could compete with the fun of transforming your own home into a sea of lovely blue, brown, and beige?

A birthday.

I saw my dad yesterday under abbreviated circumstances (he was driving and pulled over to ask if I wanted a ride), and it wasn’t until 4 or 5 steps later that I realized I had forgotten to say happy birthday. We’re having a little party tonight, but I hate it when there’s no celebration on the actual day. I’m sorry, dad. Your exact age shall remain secret, but I’ll shout HAPPY BIRTHDAY from my blog.

On a different note, I’ve been totally out of crafting steam lately. I think I might do like Three Pink Trees and take a little blogging break while the place of residence is in upheaval. I promise to return with glowing pics of the new apartment at the end, and maybe a few updates along the way. I’ve thought about running a little series on decorating-on-the-cheap, since most of the good ideas I’ve found so far require lots of cash. Will let you know if I/we come up with anything creative.

The RenFair poster still has a long way to go…will definitely post it if I manage to finish.

Hope y’all have a good weekend.